UMass athletic director, basketball and football head coaches take pay cuts to help the school's budget

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The coronavirus pandemic has had trickle-down impacts on several Division I college athletic programs, and the University of Massachusetts is no exception.

UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford, along with football coach Walt Bell and basketball coach Matt McCall, will be taking temporary 10 percent cuts in their salaries. Bamford's will last for 14 months, while Bell and McCall will both have their cuts for a year.

"By mid-to-late April, I realized we were going to be looking at some things, moving into not only the end of this fiscal year but next year and we're going to have to make some hard decisions as an institution," Bamford said. "I just felt like I was under contract, and if we were going to go to a situation where people on campus were going to be furloughed — including my staff — I just felt like I needed, as a leader, to be out in front of it."

The cuts were first reported by MassLive.com.

Bamford, in an interview with The Eagle, said that the cuts would save nearly $200,000.

"I told the chancellor [Kumble R. Subbaswamy], and we had discussed it, not only the chancellor and I but our leadership group and the vice chancellors on campus," Bamford said. "They've all taken a 10 percent cut as well."

The cuts taken by the football and basketball coaches, both of whom were hired by the athletic director, were voluntary on their parts.

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"I mentioned it to our football and basketball coaches Walt and Matt, and they said, you know what, this is what's happening around the country," Bamford said, "and we want to be good partners and good teammates. They stepped up as well, which was truly awesome because it was completely voluntary. They didn't need to do that.

"They see the bigger picture, and that's part of the reason why we hired them, because they want to help where they can."

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The UMass athletic director said that the $200,000 will give the department a bit of financial flexibility to get through the storm.

One area that has, perhaps not yet gone into flux, is the situation surrounding the 2020 football season. It's a season that is supposed to open at Connecticut on Sept. 3, and end at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on Nov. 28. The highlight game on the schedule is a Nov. 14 visit to Auburn of the SEC. It's one of those "buy" games, where UMass is scheduled to receive $1.9 million to play Auburn. According to an article by The Associated P, UMass has a $10 million budget for football, and that money was going to help pay for expenses. As of right now, the game is still on the schedule, but with even Power-5 conference schools not knowing how the pandemic will impact their budgets, schedules and travel plans, the UMass athletic director is watching what might happen, and not playing it could be a game-changer for the Minutemen.

"It would be if we played a full football season without that," Bamford said. "That was kind of my point to [Associated Press writer Ralph D. Russo]. Your revenues you need when have expense. If we don't have expense, then you don't have to count on the revenues quite as much. Obviously, that paycheck from Auburn covers about 20 percent of our budget next year in football. If we have a lot of expenses associated with the season and don't have that revenue source, then that's going to hurt. There are so many things that are unknown at this point, that it's really hard to predict the impact that's going to have on us, if we play or don't play. We're just going to take it one step at a time. We've been in touch with all of the schools we're playing in football, the 12 opponents, and some are similar situations to us like UConn. Some are in completely different situations in completely different parts of the country like New Mexico and New Mexico State.

"We're going to keep working through it, and again, make decisions to try to steer this and obviously to play 12 football games. That's our goal. If that can't happen, we have to be fiscally responsible in how we conduct our season."

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Bamford said he has been keeping a close eye on the situation throughout Division I athletics, a situation that took a rough turn in the last week.

Bowling Green University announced that it would drop baseball, a move that would save the school $2 million. Mid-American Conference school Akron announced that it would drop men's golf and cross country and women's tennis, saving some $4.4 million. A third MAC school, Central Michigan, announced on Tuesday that it was dropping its men's track and field program.

Furman University, meanwhile, announced that it would drop its baseball and men's lacrosse programs. In addition, that school's athletic director, football and men's basketball coaches would all take 10-percent salary cuts. Furman would also institute a 5.5 percent cut in operating budgets for the coming year.

"Obviously, you look at the landscape and you want to focus in on higher ed as an entire enterprise and what other institutions are doing. Then you look at what some of the schools in Division I are doing. I think every school is a little different. We have our challenges that might be unique to us and we may not see the challenges that some other institutions have," Bamford said. "Everything that we do is very unique to the way we think we can move forward. There's a lot of different models that exist for us, and not knowing what the budget deficits for next year are going to be, it's hard to plan for any one thing in particular. Knowing that we are going to face some challenges, we are looking at the opportunities to do things in a way that is going to impact our student-athletes and our staff the least. Hopefully, you can stay there in that environment, and not have to go to something that will have to impact people's lives.

"Certainly the furloughs and voluntary cuts impact people's finances and lives, but we're doing everything we can to be good stewards of the resources we're provided and also do what's in the best interest of the athletics department at the end of the day."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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